Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa: Berbatov leads Whites to first win in eight (Video)

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Fulham picked up three enormous points, their first win under new first team coach Rene Meulensteen, as they dominate a well-traveled Aston Villa 2-0 from Craven Cottage.

Steve Sidwell and Dimitar Berbatov both grabbed first-half goals, with the latter having a hand in both scores and handing in an impressive performance on the heels of a few lazy showings.

The home side started on the front foot, and bashed both of Villa’s flanks in the first ten minutes, but they couldn’t find a good cross into the box.

Brad Guzan in that time was forced into a fantastic save when Dimitar Berbatov put his head to a corner, but the 29-year-old keeper athletically kept the Bulgarian out.

Villa had clearly decided to play on the counter, like they had so many times before successfully on the road.  Christian Benteke found himself a chance in the 13th minute but couldn’t put his header accurately onto a cross from Gabriel Agbonlahor.

Benteke then three minutes later again found space in the box but Maarten Stekelenburg saved well down low to his left.

Things started to get hectic for the Villa defense just before 20 minutes as Ashkan Dejagah received a long ball in the box and was free on net but Cieran Clark made a last-ditch tackle among penalty shouts for Fulham, and Kacaniklic’s follow-up was cleared off the line by Nathan Baker.

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Giorgis Karagounis partnered beautifully with Scott Parker and put in a fantastic midfield shift.

The disorganization of the visitors at the back finally hurt them in the 21st minute.  Giorgis Karagounis won the ball in Villa’s third, and a great touch by Berbatov found Dejagah then Steve Sidwell who cut home from a very tight angle.

It got better for the home side eight minutes later as a beautiful touch by Berbatov on the counter sprung Kacaniklic all alone.  Leandro Bacuna caught up as Kacaniklic settled and broke, but the Swede stuck his body between ball and defender, and Bacuna brought him down.  What looked to be a soft penalty was shown to be the correct decision on replay.

Berbatov then took the penalty and, in his usual cool self, calmly finished past Guzan for a 2-0 lead.

The second half was more of the same, with Guzan needing to sprawl to his left to save a Philippe Senderos header within the first five minutes after the break.

Fulham didn’t find as many chances as in the first half, but they controlled possession and midfield, and Aston Villa wasted chance after chance with poor set pieces and sloppy passing on the counter.

John Arne Riise on 65 minutes just missed wide with a header after Dejagah found him with a long cross, and the Iranian himself had a shot saved by Guzan minutes later with space and the goal gaping.

It was all Fulham from that point on, with Riise failing to get past Guzan on two other occasions, and chances also falling for Berbatov and Dejagah.

The only real chance for Aston Villa came as Abgonlahor was possibly fouled in the edge of the box by Aaron Hughes on 84 mintues.  There was slight contact on Agbonlahor’s foot, but the striker didn’t help himself by going down theatrically. Mike Dean waved it off.

The win for Fulham is massive, as they move above Crystal Palace into 17th and look bright for the second straight match. Villa also halts a streak, one of five straight unbeaten marked by just their second away loss of the season.

Christian Benteke remains goalless for nine straight matches now.

GOALS:

Fulham – Sidwell 21′, Berbatov (pen) 30′

LINEUPS:

Fulham – Stekelenburg; Riether, Hughes, Senderos, Riise; Parker, Karagounis (Kasami, 75′), Sidwell; Kacaniklic (Duff, 76′), Dejagah; Berbatov.

Aston Villa – Guzan; Bacuna, Clark, Baker, Herd (Lowton, 81′); El Ahmadi (Tonev, 45′), Westwood Delph; Agbonlahor, Benteke, Weimann (Albrighton, 81′).

Yaya Toure talks future, wants to play with Paul Pogba

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There is very little debate: Yaya Toure is his own special case.

The longtime Manchester City midfielder does what he wants, flies his own flag, has the worst agent in the game, and is pleased or dismayed in unusual ways.

[ UCL: What would Real 3-peat mean? ]

Toure, 35, has been linked with a move to NYCFC now that he’s leaving Man City, but the Ivorian still wants to play two more seasons for a Champions League or Europa League club.

And he wants to get together with Paul Pogba. You can see where this is going… (from The Manchester Evening News):

“Pogba is the same size, power – but different in the way he wants to go. Technically as well, the ability to score goals as well. It is a player I want to play with, to be honest, just to teach him some things.”

That must mean both are going to Paris Saint-Germain because… Yaya at Manchester United? No way, right? Right? Even with last year’s reports from his — again — terrible agent that it was an option, that still seems too villainous.

“I don’t rule big teams out. The big teams are very important for me. What they want to achieve, the way they want to go, for me is very important. … I want to go somewhere I can win and achieve. It’s going to be hard one day to play against City, but I have to do that. It is part of my job.”

Toure later said he was “no good in an office,” which had us thinking, well, what if they properly celebrated your birthday, Yaya?

WATCH: Miami United midfield unleashes Open Cup laser

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Tomas Granitto, have yourself an extra plate at the postgame buffet.

The Miami United midfielder scored a gorgeous goal in Wednesday’s 2-0 win over fellow NPSL side Jacksonville Armada in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s third round.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

Complete with aesthetically-pleasing post-ping, the former El Salvador U-20 player laid into a 25-yard shot to open the scoring in Florida.

Granitto, 24, has played for Timbers 2, Swope Park Rangers, FC Edmonton, since leaving NCAA side Florida Gulf Coast.

Rondon wanted by Atleti, Inter Milan, and West Ham

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The big boys are looking to Salomon Rondon as a bargain striker.

Yes, $22 million is a bargain in the striker market these days.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

West Brom’s Venezuelan international, 28, stands 6’2″ and has a relegation release clause that is reportedly interesting Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid, and West Ham United.

Atleti and Inter are in the Champions League next season, but Rondon played for new West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini at Malaga, posting 25 league goals in two seasons.

He’s scored 24 goals in three Premier League seasons at West Brom, almost a quarter of the 104 produced by the Baggies.

He also picked up three assists this season as the target man for Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, and Darren Moore (and was fouled more often than any other Baggie (Baggy?)).

Rondon and Marko Arnautovic next to each other would be a real handful for PL defenses. Then again, maybe he’ll stay loyal to West Brom and set the Championship scoring record next season.

Three German organizers of 2006 World Cup indicted for tax evasion

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) Three German organizers of the 2006 World Cup have been charged with tax evasion linked to a payment to FIFA.

German news agency dpa reported that Theo Zwanziger, Wolfgang Niersbach and Horst R. Schmidt confirmed Wednesday they are indicted by Frankfurt prosecutors in a long-running investigation.

[ MORE: 3 Key Battles for UCL Final ]

They are accused of falsifying tax returns on behalf of the Germany soccer federation (DFB) in 2006. The DFB has already paid 19.2 million euros ($22.4 million) in back taxes. All three deny the charges, which were first reported by German daily Bild

The allegations are also being investigated by Swiss federal prosecutors and FIFA’s ethics committee. They have targeted German soccer great Franz Beckenbauer, who led the 2006 tournament organizing committee.

Beckenbauer, Zwanziger and Niersbach were members of FIFA’s executive committee in turn from 2007 through 2016.

In 2016, the DFB published an inquiry report into a complex payments trail including 6.7 million euros ($7.8 million) to FIFA in April 2005. Zwanziger and the DFB claimed the money was for a World Cup opening gala and therefore tax-deductible.

However, the payment went through FIFA and ended in a Swiss account belonging to former Adidas chief Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009.

The inquiry report did not rule out, but could not prove, that votes were bought when Germany beat a Nelson Mandela-supported South Africa bid for the hosting rights in a 12-11 vote of FIFA executive committee members in 2000.

Swiss prosecutors said in 2016 they had opened a criminal proceeding against the four German officials the previous year, on suspicion of fraud, money laundering, criminal mismanagement and misappropriation. That case spun off from a wider Swiss investigation of suspected corruption linked to FIFA and World Cup hosting votes that is ongoing.

Niersbach lost his seat on FIFA’s ruling committee when he was banned for one year for failing to disclose possible unethical conduct.

The various investigations have tarnished the reputation of the 2006 World Cup that was a popular success in the host nation, which called it the “Summer Fairytale.”